This is post 5 of 9 in a series about the book of Jeremiah.

As is very common in Jeremiah, the word of the LORD came to him (18:1). This time it instructed him to go to the potter’s house. He walked in and saw with his eyes before hearing directly, and then after he had digested what was going on with his eyes he received the word of the LORD to his ears.

The Potter

Interestingly, the potter had learned to work from home (WFH) effectively in the 600s BC (18:3), even before the dawn of the internet and telecommunications. Indeed, nothing is new under the sun! The potter actually had it better than we do—when he was done with his work for the day he didn’t have any emails to get through.

The point God is making in Jeremiah 18 isn’t that a potter does whatever he wants with the clay (although that is true and it is the point of Isaiah 45:9); rather, He is stressing here that when he finds something wrong with the clay, he reserves the right to change what he will do with it. This is profound and allows for God’s people to have some free will in the midst of His sovereignty.

The Clay

In other words, even though the potter had the power to do whatever he wanted with the clay, Jeremiah saw him change his mind BECAUSE of what he found wrong with the clay. God was communicating that his clay was spoiled (the same verb was used for the spoiled garment [13:7]), and that is why he decided to change course. The clay had limited power to affect the potter’s plan, and God’s people are allowed limited authority to affect God’s plan. The call is to: “change your ways and I will change my plans.”

After God’s offer, His people decided to continue with their own “plans” (Hebrew: mahsebot, 18:12).

  • God offered an alternative to his mahsebot that would be much easier for them (18:11), but this was rejected by the people in favor of their own rebellious mahsebot (18:12).
  • In 18:18, Judah’s leaders mahsebot (plot) against Jeremiah, and in 18:23 they mahsebot (plot) to kill him.
  • In 19:7, God is seen voiding (ESV) Judah’s mahsebot (plan).
  • In all those cases, God’s mahsebot (plan) won.
  • Finally in 29:11 God declares a new mahsebot (plan) over His people, to prosper them and give them hope for a future.

And B4T

God refers back to Jeremiah’s original calling when he says, “If I declare….that I will pluck up [uproot], breakdown and destroy it [a nation]…” (18:7) and “If at any time…I will build and plant it,” (18:9). Jeremiah was to join God in the process of uprooting —> breaking down —> destroying —> overthrowing —> building —> planting. In B4T, we are to join God in this remarkable calling.

Our businesses are also clay in the Potter’s hands. We really do have the power to affect change in the societies where we work, but we must keep listening to what the LORD is saying He wants to do. He has the right to grow our businesses, close them, or keep them lumbering along barely meeting payroll.

In the OPEN Network, our vision is to see B4Ters and, by extension, their businesses thriving and making disciples amongst least-reached peoples. Yet, we must be cognizant that there are times and seasons the LORD doesn’t want to plant His church among them for reasons we will not understand on this side of Eternity. We must always keep in mind that what He wants is much more important than our business success.

Greg is the President of OPEN USA. He used his education to work as a tentmaker in the Middle East for 8.5 years seeking to plant a church amongst a least-reached people group. Currently back in the USA with his wife and children, they aim to return to finish what the LORD used them to start.

To learn more about B4T, read Business for Transformation by Patrick Lai.

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